[from Christian Science Monitor]

ST. LOUIS It's the thought of their fear that troubles him most. Homeless dogs are Randy Grim's passion. Whether caged in shelters or running wild on the street, the dogs consume most of his waking hours. At night, he says, he often can't sleep because "their faces haunt me." They're afraid almost all the time, Mr. Grim says. "And when I look at them, I see me."

Grim, founder of St. Louis-based Stray Rescue, is a most unlikely crusader. "I'd actually rather be a recluse," he cracks.

A self-described "poster boy for panic disorder." Grim is made anxious by new faces, public spaces, elevators, and driving. He worries about germs on doorknobs and is subject to panic attacks in crowded stores.

But when it comes to dogs, fear has no sway. Grim cruises regularly through the kind of urban blight armed police officers prefer to avoid. When necessary, he tosses harsh words at street toughs. And several times daily, he kneels among packs of stray street dogs - dogs with gunshot wounds, dogs missing limbs, dogs bleeding from open wounds. He offers them bits of hot dogs, cubes of cheese, and - to any who will allow it - gentle caresses of love.
By 1998, Grim was working full time for Stray Rescue, his own nonprofit organization and shelter. Insisting he has no organizational skills, Grim says, "I have no idea how I did it."

But despite his plea of incapacity he now heads up a network of two no-kill shelters, 200 volunteers, and five employees. He appears on TV, has been the subject of a book - "The Man Who Talks to Dogs" by Melinda Roth - and has written one of his own, "Miracle Dog."

Much of this has been excruciating, he says, for a man who detests hearing himself praised and who mostly yearns for a place to hide. But, he reminds himself, public exposure and the support it has brought have been key to his ability to rescue more than 5,000 stray dogs since 1991.
Grim is often asked why he dedicates his life to dogs when so many people suffer as well. His friends also fret that he has so little outside life (apart from a recent foray into ballroom dancing).

But he can't entirely explain the directions his life has taken. "I had an abusive father and a very loving mother," he says. The combination, he believes, uniquely equipped him to understand both the terror a stray dog lives with and the warmth that can reach it.

Sometimes, he says, all he can offer a dog is a loving gesture - perhaps the only kindness it will ever know. This ability to even momentarily relieve suffering with love, says Grim, buoys him in ways he cannot explain.

"I don't want this to sound weird, because I'm not really a religious person," he says, "but I pray a lot. And I just believe that this is my special job, the thing I was put here to do."

full story: http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0306/p20s01-lihc.html